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Thread: The Comprehensive Spending Review

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    Politics.ie Member LDF's Avatar
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    Default The Comprehensive Spending Review

    The results of Brendan Howlin's Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) are expected to be announced in September. That review will give us a clear insight into how determined this government is to cut waste and keep taxes as low as possible. However, I have some concerns about the CSR and the lack of external expertise being utilised to identify and eliminate waste.

    Brendan Howlin is a pretty impressive politician but has zero experience in business. He was a primary school teacher and INTO activist before becoming a full-time politician. Howlin is also a member of the Government's Economic Management Council. This four man team will presumably sign-off on the CSR before it goes to Cabinet for final approval. The Economic Management Council is made up of An Taoiseach (Teacher), Tanaiste (trade union activist), Michael Noonan (Teacher) and Howlin (Teacher & trade unionist).

    The lack of business expertise at a political level would not be a problem if the advisors working on the CSR had the expertise to compensate for it but that isn't clear at all. The main civil servant responsible for CSR is a guy called Robert Watt. He is an economist with some private sector experience (with Indecon) but it seems that responsibility for the CSR has largely been left with the Department of Finance - the Dept that brought us benchmarking, inflation busting welfare increases, property tax breaks and the bank guarantee.

    I can find no evidence that the CSR has engaged private sector experts in ICT - harnessing new technology to cut costs, change management or "turn-around" experts, guys (or girls) with real-life experience of rescuing organisations in trouble.

    Now, I think there is enough "obvious" fat in the public sector and the CSR will have no trouble identifying it but we should be using this economic crisis as an opportunity to create a public sector that is fit for the 21st century. I hope this is not an opportunity missed. I guess we'll know in September.




    Appointment of Robert Watt as Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform - Department of Finance - Government of Ireland

    Howlin plans public spending review - The Irish Times - Thu, Mar 24, 2011

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    Politics.ie Member LDF's Avatar
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    Just one more point on this. I think it would be worthwhile to "open-source" the comprehensive spending review.

    The govt could quickly set up a website which would provide key details on all cost centres in the public sector, the number of people who work in them, what they do (or are supposed to do) and how much of our money they spend and on what. The public could then be invited to submit ideas to reduce costs. The best ideas could be rewarded with a small cash prize but I think most people would be willing to participate out of patriotic duty.

    Such a method would encourage public servants who know where the bodies are buried to identify waste free from the fear that they might incur the wrath of their union, would give taxpayers "ownership" of the austerity process and take the process out of the hands of the Department of Finance which wasn't fit for purpose in 2004 or 2008 and isn't fit for purpose now.
    Last edited by LDF; 17th June 2011 at 01:28 PM.

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    Politics.ie Member Ulster-Lad's Avatar
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    We did set up another quango related to this today.

    The Government will also agree to set up a Fiscal Advisory Council which would advise the Government on how the economy is performing and scrutinise all economic forecasts made by Government departments and agencies.
    Government set to implement Fiscal Responsibility Rule | BreakingNews.ie
    ‘The Great only appear great because we are on our knees: Let Us Rise!’ “ (James Larkin)

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    Politics.ie Member LDF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ulster-Lad View Post
    We did set up another quango related to this today.



    Government set to implement Fiscal Responsibility Rule | BreakingNews.ie
    I'm not a huge fan on QUANGO's but this one might not be so bad. I think this QUANGO is supposed to resemble the Budget Control Office in the USA - It offers independent analysis of government fiscal and budgetary policy. If we had such an office here when FF were in power we may not be in the position we are in now.

    It all depends on how "Independent" the members of the advisory council will be and how the members are selected. Let's hope Celia Larkin doesn't get the gig.

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    Politics.ie Member LDF's Avatar
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    Update: Minister Howlin gave an interview to the Irish Times yesterday in which he stated that he will recruit private sector consultants "with real-life experience" to help drive reform of the public sector.

    This is great news. I still think it would be worthwhile involving the public at all stages of the review but this is an encouraging start.

    Private sector consultants to drive public service reform - The Irish Times - Sat, Jun 18, 2011

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    Politics.ie Member LDF's Avatar
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    Update: Minister Howlin tells the Irish Independent this morning that he will be seeking ideas on cost cutting from the public. The Minister also states that he will publish the minutes of the weekly meeting between himself and his officials.

    Those are both good moves and very welcome.



    Howlin asks for ideas on saving public money - National News, Frontpage - Independent.ie

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    Politics.ie Member wombat's Avatar
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    "People who are at the coalface are likely to be the best source for ideas," Mr Howlin said
    No they are not - the Minister needs to set the strategy, people "at the coalface" focus on tactics. Real savings will be made by eliminating programs, not by improving the efficiency of delivery of services that are not needed.

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